Why we really really really like repetition in music
Why we really really really like repetition in music


This is a picture of a song. Its fingerprint. Its visual identity. It was generated by a tool that visualizes
matching data. And it reveals something really cool about
how a song can be structured around lyrical repetition. By the way, this is Vince Staples “Yeah
Right”, and it’s been stuck in my head for months. Boy yeah right yeah right yeah right. Boy yeah right yeah right yeah right. This is Colin Morris. He’s a computer programmer that who loves
pop music. I did a master’s degree in computational linguistics. Colin created this tool called Song Sim. Each row
and each column is a word in a song from beginning to end. But the interesting thing is when you see these structures off the diagonal. Those moments off the diagonal represent some
form of repetition. I think my favorite example and one of the
earliest ones that I played with was Bad Romance by Lady Gaga. one of the coolest things about this song
is just how many different hooks she manages to squeeze into it. Ra ra ah ah ah roma roma ma gaga oh la la
want your bad romance. Depending on how you count, there are at least
five different lyrical themes that repeat to the point where you start running out of
words to describe them. Usually verses aren’t that repetitive. Here, they are. The only part of the song that is falls into
a traditional song structure is the bridge. And it really stands out. Still, though, it’s highly repetitive. Walk walk fashion baby work move that bitch
crazy. Bad Romance came out in 2009 and since then
some of biggest pop songs every year have only gotten more repetitive. We’ll get back to this chart but first,
I want to get something out of the way. I really really really really really really
like you and I want you do you want me to? Yes that’s true. But not exactly what I want to say. You see, there’s always been a pretty strong
sentiment that if a song is structured around excessive repetition it’s uncreative, it’s
unchallenging or it lacks complexity. That anti repetition sentiment goes back a
laughably long time. All the way back to November 6, 1882 when
composer Ferdinand Praeger gave a case against repetition called “On the fallacy of the
repetition of parts in the classical form.” Here’s what he said: All will readily admit that a first impression,
however striking, is weakened when followed by an immediate repetition. Would ever a poet think of repeating half
of his poem; a dramatist a whole act; a novelist a whole
chapter ? Such a proposition would be at once rejected as childish. Why should it be otherwise with music? Praeger believed repetition was beneath music
when in fact, repetition is decidedly musical. There’s this phenomenon called the speech
to song illusion. Have you run across that? That’s Elizabeth Margulis. She directs the Music Cognition Lab at the
University of Arkansas and has written a book on musical repetition. There’s this really interesting process
where you can take a little bit of speech, you can take a little bit of speech, you can
take a little bit of speech. Repeat it a number of times and for many people
what initially just sounded like somebody talking to you now sounds like somebody singing. Psychologist Diana Deutsch discovered this
illusion in 1995 ironically when she was editing the audio of her CD ‘Musical Illusions and
Paradoxes’. Margulis’ music cognition lab has conducted
a number of studies on repetition but there’s one that is really is pretty fascinating. She selected music from renowned 20th century
composer, Elliot Carter whose work was is atonal and explicitly non-repetitive. She presented a few versions to a class of
33 students who were unfamiliar with the work. One version was the original, no alterations. The other two versions were digitally altered
just to be repetitive without regard for the aesthetic quality of the music. And it turned out that the excerpts that had
been kind of adulterated to insert this literal kind of repetition were viewed not only as
more enjoyable and more interesting but also was more likely to have been composed by human
artists rather than randomly generated by computer. So repetition in music not only feels intentional
to our brains we actually enjoy it. Let’s take a look at that chart you saw
earlier. It illustrates that our love of repetition
was increasingly reflected in pop music. I was surprised by how clear the trend was. Oh yeah, Colin made that too. It turned out that you could basically take
any 10 year period over the last 50 years and there would always be an increase in repetition
over those 10 years. Yes, pop songs have gotten more repetitive,
But repetition can be used to flip predictable song structures to make them completely unpredictable. And that’s really cool. I don’t know if you saw the visualization
for “Formation” by Beyonce? Oh yes. Okay ladies now let’s get in formation It’s almost like two songs glued together. With the first half of the song you have this
very clear chorus. My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana
You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama Once you get to the second half – that hook
disappears and Beyonce replaces it with this catchy hyper repetitive chant. Cause I slay (okay)
I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay), I slay (okay),
I slay (okay) You can’t deny the power of this song. Repetition doesn’t just make it memorable,
it reinforces its central message. But when I listen to “Yeah Right” by Vince
Staples I’m reminded of the speech to song illusion. When Vince repeats Yeah Right over twenty
times,I start to shift my focus from the meaning of the lyric to the rhythm and musicality
of it. Boy yeah right yeah right yeah right. Boy yeah right. Repetition grabs a hold of our brains in a
way that we often can’t quite control. And that might feel like the music is playing
us rather than us playing the music. But if repetition makes songs like Formation,
Lose yourself to Dance, Beat It and I wanna dance with Somebody both great and memorable. It can rule the charts forever.

100 thoughts on “Why we really really really like repetition in music”

  1. Jv says:

    The Beatles? No?

  2. Michael Potter says:

    No „we“ don’t

  3. Daniel Simon says:

    why do all your vids feature Carly Rae Jepsen ?

  4. Kevin Luo says:

    In America, we play music. In Soviet Russia, music plays us.

  5. NineHellHeaven says:

    I like very repetitive electronic music without lyrics. I tend to listen at low volumes and find the driving rhythms soothing.

  6. Gadjo Dilo says:

    You're an amazing teacher

  7. Miguel kopp rodriguez says:

    There is Not just repitition in one song. Now a days almost every song sounds the same…

  8. jesse e says:

    6:12 Actually I CAN deny "the power" of the song *Formation by Beyonce*… for one I just learnt through this video that it exists… 😂 and even after that… Am mostly unmoved… 🤣

  9. Julian Klietz says:

    Yeah, nur repetition legitimizes, tho

  10. Shaymian Te Whau says:

    Where my prog snobs at?

  11. Lightning Underpants says:

    I need to see the graph for put a ring on it and wondering where the lion's are

  12. Duru Collins says:

    Who ever is in charge of Vox's motion graphics design is a genius!

  13. Maako Ishikawa says:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRAebG6HwLQ

  14. Daniel Modesto says:

    And thats why pop music is getting worse, you saw the proof on the chart

  15. Jack Irving says:

    Second verse same as the first!

  16. Ribeye Robert D says:

    This nonsense music is NOT great.
    You are a glom on.

  17. Zach Lafaro says:

    This came in my feed and I have been trying to find a video on this I for a while. Love it ❤️

  18. Portender says:

    this level of repetition is for plebs

  19. Firstname Lastname says:

    alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright alright

  20. DChong says:

    walking, eating sleeping, sunrise sunset are repetition.

  21. Excavious says:

    GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG

  22. H. Calvert says:

    I love repetitive beats in music; hate repetitive lyrics. 🎶

  23. The Resistance says:

    ….brilliant <3

  24. Jesus Flores says:

    I happen not to like too much lyrical repetition in music.

  25. It's a Me Vault Boi says:

    This is basic music theory and I don't see their point on why repetition is likeable??

  26. Mark Gillespie says:

    Could this be because when we are babies our parents read us repetitive stories and we inadvertently programmed our brains this way?

  27. Joe Verne says:

    Well think about it.. How do we learn or memorize things.. We usually read it over again and again.. So repetition is important for us. Not only in songs but day to day life

  28. ChristiIna Jolie says:

    Actually, I can deny the power of FoRmaTIon, it doesn't sound good

  29. Krysta Wisner says:

    nobody by mitski

  30. ragweed says:

    Hoes mad

  31. Jone Cuntapay says:

    Does the algorithm of songsim reads japanese?????

  32. Estevan Carlos Benson says:

    Praegers was right.

  33. Estevan Carlos Benson says:

    The thesis that you believe is not answered here is not fully answerable. No one knows "why" the brain seems to produce a sense of enjoyment upon hearing repetition (some of our brains). Rather you should take into account that our brains are always trying to detect patterns in the observable world and so it may be that process that produces "enjoyment" upon detecting a repeating pattern.

  34. Estevan Carlos Benson says:

    I loathe too much repetition and hate this video for pretending as though this is a benign trend.

  35. Ouroboros Nagyok says:

    not all of us do

  36. BARRR says:

    REPETITION LEGITIMIZES

  37. xpstar214 says:

    Keep in mind, this was before Lil Pump got popular

  38. Viktor Kemény says:

    Repetition legitimizes
    Repetition legitimizes
    Repetition legitimizes
    Repetition legitimizes
    Repetition legitimizes
    Repetition legitimizes
    Repetition legitimizes

  39. CELESTE LONGWAY says:

    Hmmmm…..interesting…..

  40. Meme Mees Maxim says:

    This isn't even about music, it's about lyrics.
    Lyrics don't equal music

  41. BOLT Wolvezz ツ says:

    that one guy in the class always playing gucci gang cuz it’s full repetition: do y’all know the lyrics of a full song?😏

  42. yo mama so fat says:

    2:01 what's that song in the backround with that badass base line?

  43. Petter Houting says:

    Repition legitimises

  44. Booch Boochovsky says:

    If some sounds strat s to repeat we start recognize them – it gives us sense of atavistic calm – like we know our habitat. Specialy in case of repetitions in music its also gives us some kind of mental space where we can deep dive in that trance dance >transcendence<

  45. Jana Dixgard says:

    It would be interesting to create a pattern via songsim and then compose & write the song to it
    visualise a blank pattern of tiles where you have to colour/title them individually to make the pattern work –
    musical sudoku lol

  46. Neil Amadeus Yudhistira says:

    'coz repetition legitimizes

  47. A Taurus Knows Best says:

    Hipsters have the WORST taste in HipHop…

  48. An anonymous little boy says:

    An anonymous little boy
    Really?

  49. korpyx says:

    these videos about music are nice, but don't try to be scientific about it, it's music

  50. Rusidion says:

    These songs pictures would actually make some pretty interesting album covers ngl

  51. Otto Von Bismarck says:

    Can you show a slayer song there’s little to no repetition of lyrics outside the chorus

  52. Jospeh Stalin says:

    This makes me hit the enlightenment period music

  53. The Lonely Traveller says:

    We don't. Thank you

  54. Cassandra says:

    A song should tell a story repetition is for the chorus I hate when the whole song is just repetition sorry I mean a song that is just a chorus.

  55. Jacob Scardino says:

    Repetitions is not the problem, you're absolutely right. It's what's being repeated which can be uncreative or boring.

  56. trenty b. says:

    Repetition legitimizes

  57. J German says:

    I disagree. Gasp!

  58. Dale Stephenson says:

    Bohemian rhapsody……

  59. Markfield Park says:

    Because they using music as spells and programming our mind to become simplistic drones succecible to mind programming

  60. Daniel says:

    That's one of the reasons I love Björk, she's a musical genius haha

  61. Ron White says:

    Kick–snare–kick kick–snare–kick–snare–kick kick–snare–repeat. I wonder if this is considered musically acceptable.

  62. Iain Mackenzie says:

    Children DO like repetition. And so do we (obviously). It is also hypnotic.

    And please note that 'loudness' has also increased over the time frame mentioned here. I am just not sure that our fondness for repetition and a louder sound is anything more complex than our fixation on sweet , salty and processed food.

  63. Can we get to 70 subscribers with no Videos? says:

    I hate it actually 😂

  64. WAE_KNO DA_ says:

    But people ALWAYS complain about the repetition in lofi

  65. Osvin Vazquez says:

    This is cool but I don't get it. Lol. How do the lyrics match with the picture.

  66. Andyan Raharja says:

    Very Cool Dood.

  67. Coral Reefer says:

    You didn't answer the question of "WHY we really really really like repetition in music"

  68. Patrick Mittel says:

    He only genre that gets repetition right is eurobeat. fight me

  69. Emma M says:

    THEYRE TAKING THE HOBBITS TO ISENGARD

  70. T- Series says:

    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang
    Gucci gang, Gucci gang

  71. don says:

    What we are really saying: Repeating lyrics and melodies over and over again can get a little boring sometimes I guess

    What Vox thinks we are saying: No repitition!!!!!! NEVER say anything twice EVER!!!!!!

  72. Jose Reyna says:

    Super insightful

  73. Evan lugo says:

    Lil pump is shaking

  74. ahri says:

    What do we like more than repetition? Songs that “rhyme,” right? 😀

  75. Lemo Noel says:

    Gucci Gang Gucci Gang

  76. Yazid Xury says:

    Try gucci gang

  77. Gabriel Susman says:

    I liked the lyrical repetition graphs a little to much

  78. shubham chauhan says:

    Try "Dance of eternity by Dream theatre"

  79. Jerjer King says:

    GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG GUCCI GANG

  80. Neofolis says:

    I love music and hate repetition in music. What does that mean?

    I don't mind a chorus being repeated at various points in the song, but I don't like immediate repetition.

  81. Vinci Alastair says:

    I wanna see them do something with Em's songs, or any sort of real rap songs in general.

  82. Rich M says:

    "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon….."

  83. Quesartillana says:

    Swans: "First time?"

  84. Brandon Fortino says:

    Try that with Bohemian Rhapsody

  85. Michael Joe Jackson says:

    I literally only came because Michael Jackson was in the thumbnail but you almost didn't mention him

  86. Free Music says:

    Awwwwww maaaan

  87. NOFOOD? says:

    You like Pop repetition?

    Techno: Hold my beer.

  88. ernestas mankovskis says:

    0:30 what a song play on background ?

  89. Gagandeep Kalshi says:

    Such an amazing video! Loved it!

  90. E. Male says:

    And of course, the james brown drumbreak xD. Been repeated for 100 years now.

  91. Brian Pe says:

    Of course there's repetition or repetition which can still, lyrically, convey an emotion or thought. The difference between Cole Porter and the like and some of the artists mentioned. Love of words over clever but ultimately ear-candy , That said , Surfin Bird is still great .

  92. Elias Baer says:

    This can be used to whrite drums easyly!!!! Cause drums are in fact about repetition!!!!!!

    Stop critics, start thinking.

    Sorry for my bad english; I's still learning (just because I understand…)

  93. Tim Kramar says:

    I love a rainy night…

  94. Max Lui says:

    Great video

  95. GamerrykeGaming says:

    In Soviet Russia the music plays you

  96. Stereo Flava says:

    Video about repetition yet no mention of underground electronic music like Techno and House which is the definition of repetitive music in a good way of course.

  97. Mel T says:

    I just realized the title is repeating “really” on purpose

  98. Kizunaut says:

    Can't believe there is a video about repetive lyrics and no mention of around the world
    around the world
    around the world
    around the world
    around the world
    around the world
    around the world
    around the world

  99. UnbreakableMJ says:

    BEAT IT
    MICHAEL JACKSON

  100. TTMacademy says:

    cool analysis

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